Baby Refuses to Nurse
The Parents Network >
Advice about Breastfeeding >
Baby Refuses to Nurse
I'm looking for other mothers who have had similar difficulties
breastfeeding. My fourth child is now 7 weeks old, and refuses to nurse.
His tongue is short, his chin recedes, and his palate is very high. All
this combines to make nursing very challenging. I've been pumping and
feeding him expressed milk in bottles. My lactation consultants agree
that he will likely figure it out as he gets stronger, hopefully by three
months or so. I'd love to hear from mothers who have had similar
I had a very similar experience with my firstborn. His tongue was stuck
to the roof of his mouth for the first 8 weeks or so of his life -- the lactation
consultant had us using a bottle a couple of times a day, and a nipple
shield whenever I tried to nurse, to force his tongue to stay down far
enough so that he was actually able to latch on (my nipples were also
pretty flat, which didn't help matters). It was very frustrating, and took a
long time for us to figure out. I remember that when my son was 6
weeks old, my husband comforted me by telling me that I was 25% of
the way to 6 months, and that I could quit then if I wanted.
But what do you know, sometime between 2 and 3 months, we were
slowly able to lose the nipple shield; by 3 months my son could nurse
comfortably without it in any situation, including in public. And by 6
months, there was no way I wanted to quit; nursing was so easy, and so
convenient (no bottles and formula to bring), that I couldn't imagine
feeding my son without it.
It just took a lot of persistence in the beginning. Basically, I was just
stubborn enough to keep at it until my son (and I) figured it out.
I had the same problem with my nearly four week old. One of the
postpartum nurses recommended using a Medela silicon nipple
shield - it elongates the nipple for easier latching. It worked
well for us.
Good luck and congratulations!
My seven-month old has always been a good nurser.
Since the introduction of solids and a three-day a
week babysitter, though, his pattern has changed. He
sometimes rejects the breast. I thought it was just
teething and then an ear infection. Now he is well,
though, and while he almost always nurses again, he
will only do so when we are stretched out on the bed.
Each time I try to sit up to nurse he will pull away.
I am hell bent on nursing a year, but clearly this is
going to be tough for public nursing, travel, etc.
Anybody have a similar experience? I was afraid he
already wanted to wean, but he is nursing with gusto
if we are laying down.
My baby was always a good nurser... but only when there were no
distractions. Even when he was only a few months old he would
whip his head around when he heard Daddy's footsteps coming
close. As he got older the problem got worse (rejection!), so
we just stopped nursing in public. That didn't always work
(i.e. traveling) but most of the time it was fine -- and when
he really needed it, like on long plane rides, he could
As he started really drinking from a cup better, eating solids,
and being with a nanny all day (8 mo.) we switched to nursing
only in the morning and at night out of necessity.
Now he's 11 months and we only nurse at night and in the
morning. If we are in a public place -- even at a friend's
house -- he postpones his nursing time until we go home and sit
in the rocking chair by ourselves. He still nurses well during
those times, but it is very clear when he is finished and
doesn't want more. And no distractions -- or else rejection or
My advice: set up a routine and a quiet place to nurse your
baby -- if he insists on the bed, keep it that way. He may be
starting the weaning process... but my guess is that he's just
starting to know and express what he likes -- nursing lying
down in a comfy, quiet place. When you're in public, give him
pumped milk in a cup or bottle (if you're lucky enough that he
takes one). Good luck. I hope you're able to nurse him as
long as you want.
Although I planned to nurse longer, my daughter self-weaned at 7
months. She seemed to be ready to look around and experience
what was going on around her, and if she could do so and still
eat from a bottle or tippy cup, then that worked for her. She
is now 2.5 and perfectly happy and healthy.
My baby did exactly the same thing at the same age! The same
thrusting of the head as I tried in vain to shove my breast in his
mouth! He, too, only wanted to nurse if we were in bed, where he
would fall asleep. So be it. I gave up trying, because he simply
did not was to nurse except at night. No advice here, only that
my baby also did this, and now only nurses to fall asleep.
A ''nursing strike'' of some sort is very common around 7-9 months
and it often is related to teething and/or illness. A cold or
ear infection can especially cause the sort of thing you
describe, where the baby insists on nursing only in a particular
position, because other positions may be uncomfortable with a
stuffed up nose or painful ears.
The good news is that since your baby does still nurse, and has
taken well to eating solid foods, you don't have too much of a
problem. The laying-down-only thing will probably resolve
itself with a little time and patience, and if he is hungry when
you are out in public you can simply offer water and solid food
snacks if he won't ''nurse nicely''. The ''nurse nicely'' is
something you need to start teaching anyway; he is old enough to
learn that he only gets the good stuff if he refrains from
pulling on your shirt, gymnastics, or any other behavior you
might find acceptable at home but not in public. (Do be aware
of it if he doesn't seem to be nursing enough, though -- the
total amount of breastmilk he gets shouldn't be too much
affected by his increasing solids intake for at least another
couple months. If that happens you may need to stay at home a
little more for a while.)
If you'd like more advice and support on this or any nursing
question, subscribe to the Usenet group
misc.kids.breastfeeding. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Holly (still successfully nursing her 21-month-old)
My 8 month old son has always nursed and never taken a bottle. He also
eats soft foods at meal times. A week ago, we went out of town and after the
first day, he refused to nurse. I rented a pump and he has been drinking my
milk from a spouted a cup. We're back home now, but he still adamantly
refuses nursing. I'm hoping that this is not a permanent change and am
interested in ideas to help bring him back to nursing. I've tried quiet room,
warm bath, sleepy. My older son nursed for 18 months & then was difficult
to wean so this would be a big change from that situation. Our pediatrician
thinks he is just ready to be finished nursing. Perhaps I need to honor this
and not keep pushing? Thanks for any input.
Could your body be getting ready to resume menstruation? My baby went
nursing strike when she was 11 months old during an out of town visit. It
turned out the problem was that my periods were starting again. She
be sensitive to a change in my smell or a change in breastmilk taste right
before my periods start. She went right back to nursing after my period
started. Now she still nurses when I am pre-menstrual, but she is not as
My daughter went on a nursing strike at 7 mos. I finally discovered that
she would nurse in bed, lying down. For at least a month that was the only
way she would nurse. I consulted Sears The Baby Book for ideas (try
different nursing positions). This advice is available online at
Here are a few things you can do to get through and encourage baby to
* Try ''sneaking'' the breast in during the night, or during the day
when baby is half asleep.
* Spend a lot a skin-to-skin time with baby without specifically trying
to offer the breast.
* Try to nurse baby in an unusual situation, such as walking around or
other moving situation.
* Try a variety of positions.
Good luck getting through this hard time.
I would disagree with your pediatrician; babies do not wean before a year.
If you want to continue the nursing relationship, try going topless at home,
if she is mobile, try lying down topless (I did this with #3 - she'd
''cruise by nurse'') or spending a lazy day in bed with lots of water and
constant breast access (by your baby). My #3 started walking at 8mo, so
was MUCH more interested in walking than nursing. :)
THis is a time when night nursing is so important - she'll make up at night
for her lack of day nursing (at least that has been my experience).
Eight months is a really common age for a nursing strike, and it sounds
you are doing all the right things.
As for your peds advice - if you WANT to wean, this would obviously be an
easy time to do so. If you DONT' want to wean, I don't think you should let
your ped or anyone else try to make you feel guilty for persisting. After
all, when your little one is 18 months old and running around at the park,
and doesn't want to stop and have a much-needed snack, everyone would
you are a great mom for insisting that he or she take some time out for a
nutritious break, right? I fail to see how this is any different.
When my son would occassionally get too busy to nurse very often (he has
to stage a full-blown strike) I found it helpful to keep myself in very
close proximity (on the floor, playing together) and offer really
frequently. REALLY frequently, like every 20 minutes. And super, super
low-key. He would take me up on it for maybe 2 minutes at a time, and
at the end of a few days figure out that he could be a big guy with a
bright, new, shiny skill (walking, or a new word, or whatever) and STILL
i'd keep up with the different things you're trying, at least for a while.
i'd also contact a la leche league leader for help--they may have more
ideas. it sounds like you want him to nurse as long as your first, and i
say keep pushing! not to lambaste your pediatrician, but i don't think
there are eight month olds who 'wean' themselves--i think pediatricians
other people) who are afraid of extended nursing and don't know enough
breastfeeding (extended for many being beyond six months!) often say stuff
like that without thinking more creatively about how to get over this strike
period and extend your valuable nursing relationship.
My daughter went on strike at about 6 months. It seemed to happen after
bit me and I reacted by suddely stopping nursing and saying ouch loudly, I
know I startled her a lot (as she had me). It was also around the time we
were in flux with nannies. I called all over and none of the regular advice
worked. Finally what I found was that she would nurse when she was really
sleepy after just having woken from a nap or the night. I would go to her,
the minute I would hear her stir and nurse her. This went on for a week or
so and gradually she would nurse at other times but it always had to be in
quiet spot, otherwise she would just want to look around. We happily
continued the nursing relationship another 10 months until just last
when we finished a long slow weaning process. I remember however how
emotionally distressing the strike was for me, I felt so sad and rejected.
I am so sympathetic to what you must be going through. When my son
months old he abruptly stopped nursing for what turned out to be exactly
seven days (to the feeding!) I was frantic and tried EVERYTHING, he had
never taken a bottle but I kept pumping, put breast milk in a bottle one
and he took that thing like a pro. I never did determine what happened,
we continued to breastfeed til just after his first birthday when he slowly
weaned himself. I do seem to remember that my period started around the
time he was ten months, so there may have been some changes in the
just don't know. The advantage after that episode was that he was willing
to take a bottle, which was helpful. Hang in there!
When my daughter was 7mths. old, we went to england and the same thing
happened. No matter how hard i tried she simply would not nurse. I now
think that a change in the water/food changed the taste of my milk. Even
though you are feeding your son your milk now that you are back home, he
associate the breast with the different taste he experienced while you were
away. maybe there's something in this, i don't know.
My situation wasn't entirely the same a yours, but maybe this will help or
inspire you anyway. When I returned to work my 4 month old was taking
bottled breast milk 3 times a day and I was finding she much preferred the
bottle, as it was a faster and more consistent flow. She was getting very
frustrated with the breast waiting for the let down and would cry and cry
and not continue to suck such that the let down would never come. It was
very upsetting for me, but it was important for me to continue to nurse so I
persisted. Sometimes I would pump a little before nursing her so the let
down was already there when I put her to the breast or I would try to feed
her before she was starved so she had more patience waiting for the let
down. For the most part we have worked through it and she is nursing (she
8 months now), although I think she still would prefer the bottle, at least
during the day.
Good luck. Karyn
I didn't see the whole post, but a mom had posted apparently
about a young baby rejecting the breast earlier than a year.
My two younger sons both rejected just shy of a year, but I
found out later that the youngest rejected because I had
gotten ''serious'' about losing some baby weight, and had
unwittingly changed the formulation of my breast
milk--apparently it didn't taste very good. Pediatrician,
Nurse Practitioner, friends--all missed this because I
didn't ''talk'' about having started losing weight. There are
also some toxicity issues, apparently--but the best person
to ask about this would be a breastfeeding professional
which you can find at a place like ''Birth & Bonding''. Hope
Nursing Strike OVER!!!
After three weeks of drinking pumped breast milk from a
spouted cup, my son is back to nursing three times per
day. Thanks so much for all of the suggestions and
support. It kept me pumping & trying to nurse even when I
felt like giving up.
this page was last updated: Jan 30, 2005
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network